How to Prepare a Computer for Disposal/Recycling


Nothing lasts forever, and all things come to an end – including your trusty desktop or laptop. However, getting rid of your old computer is not as simple as throwing it away as the information stored on the hard drive can contain personal information, so knowing how to prepare a computer for disposal is very important.

Simultaneously, knowing how to wipe an old computer before recycling and, perhaps more importantly, ask, “What should I remove from my computer before recycling?”.

We will try and answer these questions and give you all the information you’ll need so you can be safe in the knowledge you’ve covered all the bases before handing your machine to someone else.

What Does Computer Disposal Mean?

In short, computer disposal refers to any process by which you pass your computer from your possession to another party. This may involve a trip to the local dump, throwing it in the trash, selling it or passing it on to another person, or someone who will strip it down for spare parts.

Since many such substances are used in the manufacture and operation of computing and electronic equipment, e-waste is often taken as synonymous with Electronic waste. This type of e-waste typically contains toxic and hazardous materials such as lead, mercury, chromium, and chemical flame retardants — all of which have the potential to make their way into soils and water supplies, damaging human habitats and natural ecosystems. So proper electronic disposal typically requires special locations or techniques.

Best Practices used in the Disposal of E-Waste

Why you Should Never Give Away or Throw Away your Old Computer

The number one reason you should never give or throw away your old computer is security. Data is one of the most valuable commodities in existence today, and everyone has a responsibility to do whatever they can to protect their personal information.

If people with malicious intent manage to get hold of your data, it can cause you endless problems. With access to passwords, they may be able to access your bank account or other sensitive websites. They may be able to gather enough personal information to steal your identity and rack up debt in your name or any one of hundreds of other fraudulent applications.

At this point, you may simply be asking, “Should I remove my hard drive before recycling my computer?” Well, yes, you should, but you need also to be thinking about how to wipe an old computer before recycling and, “What should I remove from my computer before recycling?”

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Steps to Prepare for Secure Disposal of your Computer

Understanding why preparing a computer for recycling is essential; we can now get to the steps of actually doing it. How to prepare a computer for disposal is a simple process to go through once you understand the steps, so let’s run through them right now.

Save your Data​

Before we get to the business of how to wipe an old computer before recycling, the first thing you need to do is make sure you don’t irrevocably lose all the information on your old computer. A computer will accrue an enormous amount of personal data during its lifetime, such as license keys for software, passwords, crucial financial information, and more. The security of this information is the reason we are going through this process.

Thankfully these days, much of this information can be securely stored in the cloud. Your entire password database, for example, can be retrieved simply by logging back into your Google account on your new device.

There is still a lot of important data on your machine which isn’t connected to your Google account. Using an external drive or cloud storage account such as Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, etc., and think, “What should I remove from my computer before recycling?” and then copy it all onto the backup area of choice.

serve an essential role in the end-of-life cycle of electronic devices. Rapid technological advancements have led to the rapid obsolescence of electronic devices. When electronic equipment is no longer needed, it is vital to correctly and completely destroy all data. This calls for professional data destruction services.

Wipe the Disk

How to wipe an old computer before recycling is not just a matter of deleting all the information stored on it. Manually deleting files only removes your computer’s ability to index them. The actual information remains until copied over by new data, meaning a simple data recovery program can bring everything back in a matter of moments.

IT Asset DispositionTo avoid this, you want to download a special type of software known as disk wiping software. There are lots of free applications available on the internet.

These programs will make sure all data is removed and not just the indexing.

The steps vary depending on the software you are using, so follow the instructions carefully. Remember that you are permanently formatting your computer’s hard drive, so there’s no going back.

A skilled and experienced hacker will still be able to recover some data – even after using a disk wiping program. However, our goal here is to deter the casual or opportunist criminal, not a tech mastermind.

If you are Giving your Computer to a Friend or Family Member

If you run a disk wiping program when you prepare a computer for disposal, it will remove the operating system – e.g., Windows. This can make it difficult for the next user to boot the computer up to begin their usage.

Therefore, it might be a good idea to reinstall the operating system back onto the device before passing it on to the next person.

While this has nothing to do with security, skipping this step could lead to the next owner of your machine getting confused or frustrated at their inability to even perform the most basic tasks on it and ruin the experience for them.

What if your Computer no Longer Powers up?

The main reason people get rid of an old computer is because it has ceased to function. How to prepare a computer for disposal or how to wipe an old computer before recycling becomes a lot harder if that device cannot even boot up.

In this event, your only real option is to remove the hard drive from the computer and physically destroy it. The question of what should I remove from my computer before recycling becomes moot at this point as you will likely not be able to save any data from it manually. The one exception to this would be if the hard drive is still functioning separately from the unbootable machine and can be connected to another computer and the files recovered. However, care should be taken as the reason for the breakdown of the old machine may be related to the hard drive – a virus, for example – and connecting it to another computer could cause the same issue to recur.

data sanitization

How to Wipe Windows 10 For Recycling

Finally, let’s look at how to wipe an old computer before recycling for a few of the most popular home computer operating systems – starting with Windows 10

Click on the Start Menu > Settings > Update and Security. Find the recovery menu and select Reset this PC and choose the option labelled “thoroughly.”

How to Wipe a Chromebook

Finally, let’s look at how to wipe an old computer before recycling for a few of the most popular home computer operating systems – starting with Windows 10

Click on the Start Menu > Settings > Update and Security. Find the recovery menu and select Reset this PC and choose the option labelled “thoroughly.”

How to Wipe a Mac

Make sure you manually save all keychains, passwords, account keys, etc., to a flash drive or cloud storage solution before wiping your Mac.

Restart your machine. When startup begins, hold down Shift + Option + Command + R until the Apple logo appears. The Utilities window will open, at which point you should Open Disk Utility and erase your built-in hard disk. Then select MacOS Extended (Journaled) format and quit Disk Utility when the process ends.

Navigate back to the Utilities menu and reinstall the original operating system by selecting Reinstall MacOS or OSX within the Utilities menu.

How Can TechReset Help?

Ensure the secure erasure of personal data can be time-consuming. If you are a business with tens or hundreds of computers that are at the end of their useful service life and need to be wiped, this becomes a major IT overhead. TechReset is an expert in IT asset disposition (ITAD). This is the process for disposing of IT hardware, including computers, laptops, servers, printers and phones, in a way that does not compromise the security of your data and is also safe for the environment.

TechReset is a leading provider of safe and secure end-to-end IT asset disposition services. We guarantee environmentally responsible recycling for all of your surplus, end-of-life hardware. You can also see how much your current equipment is worth by completing our ROI calculator.

Contact us to learn more.